Friday, June 01, 2007

High-Tech Scam: Self-Installs

I've done more than a few Verizon High-Speed Internet "Self Installs" for clients. Generally I get called in after a client has tried on his/her own, failed and gotten frustrated and angry dealing with Verizon tech support.

Whose idea was it to market high technology self-installs like this to the general public? Maybe they figured that they could charge less if the customer would do the install and so more people would buy. But if/when the customer realizes that they cannot install it, they feel badly about the purchase, bad-mouth the service and adversely impact sales. It's crazy!

Here's how easy Verizon's self install is supposed to be, according to the Verizon web site:

  • "After you place your order, we will send you a three-step self-install kit. The kit will walk you through the installation process, including installing your modem, using filters, and installing your Verizon High Speed Internet software. Instructions are included in the kit, and we're always here to help you with our 24/7 live technical support."

I have had to speak with Verizon High-Speed Internet tech support personnel from time to time. I know first hand that it can be a nightmare. Here are some of the issues I have had:

  • I cannot hear the person.
  • I cannot understand the person's accent.
  • They cannot answer my questions because they are simply following a script and don't really understand the technology
  • They waste my time chasing down dead ends that I've eliminated because they don't believe I know what I am doing
  • They get pissy when I tell them that I know better than them.

The reason that clients come to me, however is that I can successfully overcome the frustrations and hurdles inherent in dealing with Verizon tech support and get the service running properly.

There are many competent and friendly tech support personnel working at Verizon. They just aren't first-tier support personnel. Unfortunately, however, there is no shortcut around the first-tier. You have to keep your wits about you and go through them.

A case in point. Earlier this week, a client called because the Verizon High-Speed Internet service that I had recently installed for her was proving to be intermittent. I returned to her premises, troubleshot the problem and diagnosed it as a defective wireless access point on the Westell 327W DSL modem supplied by Verizon. I placed a call to Verizon to get them to replace the unit.

Using Citrix GoToAssist, my Verizon representative accessed my client's PC and checked various things while I watched. I offered friendly advice and words of encouragement, knowing that that would be the fastest way to get to the outcome I wanted (replacement of the modem).

After about a half-hour of trying various different things, my representative put me on hold to discuss the problem with his supervisor. When he came back on he said that the problem was that I had set the encryption on the wireless network to WPA. He said that WPA was not reliable on the Westell 327W, and we needed to use WEP. I did not tell him that I always use WPA, and I have not had any problems with it on other Westell 327Ws (focus on the goal).

After another half-hour spent changing the wireless encryption and trying to get the wireless access point to work, it finally did. A quick speed test showed that we were also getting full bandwidth wirelessly. "Problen solved!" my representative claimed.

"Wrong," said I and reminded him of the various difficulties he had in getting the connection to work, even using WEP. At that point the wireless connection dropped out again. "I want you to replace this unit," I said, and he agreed.

So while it took an hour, for which I will charge my client, I was able to get Verizon to agree to replace the modem. When it comes, I plan to configure it with WPA again.

I remember buying self-install satellite TV service which had me up on my steeply-pitched roof, trying in vain to point the dish at a particular spot in the sky without any signal detection devices except the TV in the house. I could have fallen off the roof and killed myself. At some point, I realized the folly of this and got a pro to do it.

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